I started blogging thinking that this is where I would review whatever media I felt like ranting about. It quickly changed direction. So this is my online diary. Comments are welcome.
Apparently this has been a bad year for movies and music. Okay. I'll buy that. But what if I offered some of my favorites of this year so far? Sound good? You got it dude.
I'll start with music. Music is easy for me, because I like everything (except Florida Georgia Line). One of my favorite albums this year is Sturgill Simpson's A Sailor's Guide to Earth. I really liked Simpson's previous album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, and had been anticipating this release. I was pleasantly surprised when the opening song of this record, "Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)," rolled from a sweet wailing tribute into a swinging alt-county bop. Most of the rest of the album continues in this fashion. Sometimes, while listening, you could swear it was written decades ago. Perhaps it's Simpson's vocals, or the "Free Bird-esque" lap steel solos in songs like, "Sea Stories" and "Brace for Impact." A soulful country cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" is a nice gem embedded in the middle of the tracklist. Overall I like the album. With the exception of a couple of songs, I feel like it's best listened to as a whole. I absolutely recommend giving this one a listen.
Here are a few other ear worms I've liked this year:
There were plenty of movies that I really liked this year. I have a habit of completely disagreeing with critics. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Ghostbusters. BvS only scored 27% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics, while audiences seemed to like it much better. Ghostbusters had the opposite outcome scoring a 74% with critics, but much lower with audiences. I liked them both, and of course they weren't the only ones I liked, but they stand out because of the social media backlash they received.
<rant>I'm a big-time DC comic fan, but I wouldn't be upset to see DC/Warner Bros. put the brakes on their cinematic universe. It's not that I don't enjoy their movies, because I very much do, but I don't like wading through the sea of negativity surrounding every one of their releases. Besides, they're making exceptional television shows (live action & animated). It would be nice to see them put more focus and money towards those projects, and maybe bring some big characters to the TV universe. I could offer my thoughts on why so many people dislike the DC movies, but that would start a fight, and I already told you I don't like wading through the negativity. I'll suggest this, read more comics if you don't like what you see on screen. You might just come across some source material.</rant>
I'll leave you with a couple of reading materials from this year. The first is a novel by sci-fi writer, Pierce Brown, called Morning Star. It's the final book in his Red Rising trilogy. I can't go into the premise of the series much without giving away the best parts. I'll say this, you will love and hate the main characters at one time or another. You won't likely relate to them much, because of the sci-fi aspect, but you will find yourself on their side. The world building happens rapidly in this series, so try to keep up. You'll follow Darrow through all three books, and learn things about his world at the same time he does. The storytelling is captivating, and the language is intriguing. Overall the series is an easy and fast read. Please don't let that deter you from reading this series. Also, don't let children read this. Teens, okay. Kids, NO! Book 1, Red Rising, will captivate you and leave you wanting more. Book 2, Golden Son, progresses the story, as it should. Book 3... Morning Star is the best final chapter to any series I've ever read.
The second is an ongoing comic series called, Injustice: Gods Among Us. It began in 2013 as a prequel to a well-received video game of the same title. I like the series because it explores the, "what if" side of having super heroes around. What if they decided to take over the world? What if they considered themselves above the law? What if they considered themselves to BE the law? What if Batman thought all that was a bad idea?
The series has had several different runners, artists, and writers. Those are things you can see in the material, but the direction of the story has always seemed to stay the same. At least as far as I can tell. You know, I just remembered that I wrote a post about this series back in September 2013. Yep. I'm still reading it, and I still love it. It's a dark series a lot of the time. I like that. So, if Batman fighting the Justice League is your bag, then you've gotta check this one out. If you hate it you can always blame me. Then come back here and tell me all about it. But I bet you won't hate all of it.
So there you go. A small sample of things I really liked so far this year. I have a confession to make. When I was thinking about music I had a whole bunch of stuff in mind... but it all came out last year. So, maybe there's something to the idea that this year hasn't been great for music. Not to mention the incredible losses the music community has had this year alone. The movies weren't as hard, because honestly, I go into a movie expecting to like it. I'm not going to waste my $10 on something I'm sure I'll hate.
I should really do more of these. I enjoy writing them. Can anybody help me figure out a way to can become a productive writer?
Phantom Vibration Syndrome Part 2
I wanted to touch on this topic again and tell you what I've been working on. Since I blogged about the phantom vibrations that you feel because of your mobile phone I have been reading a lot more. I have read a couple of books, lots of comics and plenty of current events. The more important thing is that I got my creative swing back.
It's true. I'm playing my guitar more and letting myself get consumed in a melody. I've attempted to cook some things I had never cooked before. I'm writing again. I'm currently working on a short story that I'm really excited to share with everybody. (When it's ready, of course.) I've spent a lot of time with friends and family, and you know, I've missed you guys. But I'm most excited about developing a comic book. This is something I've always wanted to do, and I have a really great team of folks working with me. I can bundle a lot of creativity into this one project. I'm writing and learning the art of inking. I'm researching a lot of content as well as directing the project. There is so much to do that it will keep me busy for months. We are shooting for a March release of issue 1. That will be around the time of the 2014 Planet Comicon in Kansas City, MO, although we will not be participating in the con.
My point is this. We should all rediscover something that we've lost touch with. Especially if we are good at that "something." Or if it is a thing we enjoy immensely. I'm aiming for happiness in my life. And it's definitely working for me. What are your goals? I'd like to know.
What Am I Reading?
There isn't anything better than a good horror story this time of year. So that's exactly what I went in search of at a recent book sale at our local shopping mall. I found a lot of titles that caught my attention, most of which were authored by Stephen King. However, I didn't find anything that had that nagging pull to pick it up and read it.
I've been reading a lot of comics lately. I'm a big fan of "The Walking Dead" by Robert Kirkman and this month's issue left me feeling a little bit hungry for some gnarly zombie action. I've also been reading "The Sixth Gun" by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt. So far this is a great western story about six revolvers with supernatural powers and the terror they raise. I'm only three volumes into it and the main characters have met with ghosts, ghouls and a giant mummy. I suppose this is filling my need for spooky, but I just can't seem to be satisfied.
I've also been reading a superhero story by Kirkman called "Invincible." It's an original story that tends to mirror some of our favorites from DC and Marvel. I finished reading Vol. 11 recently, and I immediately remembered a story I had entirely forgotten about...
Almost two years ago I stumbled upon a Kindle Single while browsing the Amazon book store called, "Ex-Heroes" by Peter Clines. This book was amazing! It combined all the things I love; zombies (here called "Ex-Humans"), superheroes, giant-robot-mech suits and all of it set in a post-apocalyptic world. Genius! There are two sequels to "Ex-Heroes." "Ex-Patriots", and most recently, "Ex-Communication." I have these in digital format and somehow I had forgotten about the most recent sequel that I'd downloaded around August. I intended to read it right away, but I've been busy reading a lot of other fiction and learning my new job. But now I can say that this Fall is off to a great start. The new season of "The Walking Dead" is on AMC, pumpkin spice lattes are back, pumpkin/seasonal ales are here, the Kansas City Chiefs are undefeated, the World Series is starting and now I have something to read this month.
Feed - M.T. Anderson
This book was published by Candlewick Press in 2002 and I first read it in 2006. My sister, Sarah, suggested it after reading it as an assignment in her 12th grade English class. I was not disappointed. M.T. Anderson is a great writer whom could make you believe that the world he has created in Feed is a glimpse of our own future. I have since read it at least 2 more times. The initial read will always be my favorite though, because it takes a little while to get used to the language, and that was a huge part of the experience. Anderson has captured what it will be like when school and communication are substituted for instant media and data mining. What do you think the world will be like when we are completely overtaken by our own consumerism?
I did love Feed and I absolutely recommend reading it. With that, I find it harder to read again every time. It isn't the language, but the characters themselves. As an adult I find it hard to relate to angsty teen leads in this unknown world. (And I'll be the first to tell you that I jumped on the band wagon for Young Adult titles and I love them.) I think it's just because there is so much about Anderson's world that is unfamiliar, or conceptual in nature, that the characters fall a little flat.
You read from the perspective of Titus, a young man that seems satisfied with his bland consumerist lifestyle, until he meets Violet. Violet is not like Titus' group of friends. She is from a less fortunate family and didn't receive a feed implant until she was about 7. It is because of this that she views the feed negatively while Titus and his friends are perfectly familiar to it. This is the meat of the story. It isn't so much about the wonderful world that Anderson created, but rather, how can you just accept something so intrusive?
Feed touches on all kinds of taboo and for that I applaud M.T. Anderson. He presents said taboos in a way that they don't seem offensive. Perhaps it's because of the futuristic aspect of the story. Whatever the reason, I say, find out for yourself.
There are a lot of things I didn't cover in this review that are essential to the story, but I absolutely HATE reviews that just give a synopsis without an opinion. I'm more inclined to read something that someone gives their opinion about. And I'll read the summary elsewhere. You could visit the library and look for it under Young Adult Fiction, or check out Amazon, iTunes, or any major online retailer. There is an audiobook available as well. Enjoy!
Book Store Withdrawal
I'm probably like most people when it comes to finding something great to read. I use the Google machine, right? I like to see what is top selling. I like to see which categories people are reading most often. It gives me a sense of where the best reads are coming from. I also use my Kindle Fire a lot for this kind of research because of its ease-of-use. The Amazon book store practically does all the work for you. Digital is the way people are reading their books now. I get it. I like that I can carry 30 books with me anywhere I want to go to read them. I also like that I have access to them immediately, which is helpful if I'm reading a series.
You know what I like even better than instant access to my must read list? I like reading a real book. Yep, paper cuts and split spines; curled covers and dog-eared pages. I like my favorite books with the old yellow highlighted lines and scrawled notes from past reads. I love the smell from fanning the pages of a book, and the feel of paper between my thumb and index finger. There is something special about turning the page to see what happens next that cannot be replaced by the swipe of a finger (at least not for me).
My love for these things started when I was young. I would flip through the pages of Mom's Danielle Steel books before I could even read what was on the page. When I was in elementary school we had a book fair that would come every year. It was my favorite. New books that we didn't have in the school library would be there. The "If you liked _____, then you'll love _____." lists. The newest Goosebumps book. There were too many reason I loved this time of year, but it breaks down into 1 solid fact about me. I love books.
It is a necessity, maybe a compulsion, for me to browse the book store. I feel at home there. I remember things about my childhood, or silly stories from the past whenever I'm there. Just ask my girlfriend how often I frequent the book store. I'm sure she will say that I spend too much time there. However, the time I spend now is a whole lot less than when we had a big chain store here in St. Joe. I really like the big chain stores. They have anything you want and the ability to get it for you, often at no extra cost. Don't get me wrong, I like the Ma & Pa shops too, but I'll get to that in a moment. The drag for me when I found out they were closing the big store was that it meant I had to accept that people were changing the way they read their books. I didn't like it. Everybody loves to read books the same way I do, or so I thought. Now, done and gone, I find myself still tied to the need to put something in my hands that won't loose power after hours of reading. (I read a lot on my Kindle.) We still have Hastings and that's great, but I find myself browsing the same shelves over and over again, and just...bored. So this is it. I'm going hunting. I'm going to start looking for those small shops, those Ma & Pa stores, to revive my love for finding treasures bound and stapled. I want to hold the stories that others have loved. This is my mission, so if you have any suggestions please comment, and I'll let you know what I find.
I discovered reading and writing for fun when I was in the 4th grade and I haven't been able to stop. I discovered my musical talent when I was 12 and started a band with my brother and my best friends. I have been on a journey of discovery that has shaped and molded my tastes for music, reading, writing, art, food and extracurricular activities since I was a high school freshman. And I'm not quite finished, so come along.